Yet the Fire Did Not Consume It: Religious Nonconformity and Presbyterian Resistance in the South and West of Scotland, 1661-1688
Smith, Philip Myles
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AbstractReligious nonconformity in seventeenth-century Scotland is often depicted either as a struggle waged by a persecuted remnant of believers who suffered at the hands of the state rather than betray their principles or as a rebellion by religious radicals who the government justly suppressed. Yet such simple depictions do not adequately account for the survival of presbyterianism in the face of government-imposed episcopacy. This thesis investigates how nonconformists in the South and West of Scotland maintained the presbyterian tradition, despite considerable government effort to eradicate it. The Restoration-era government sought religious uniformity throughout Britain, with ecclesiastical control emanating from the Crown. The Scottish Kirk’s insistence, however, on its independence from secular authority and the right to govern its own affairs, led a significant element of the Scottish clergy and laity to resist. Research consisted of analysis of both Kirk and government records, as well as primary nonconformist documents to determine the nature of resistance and the strategies employed by both the government and nonconformists. This thesis seeks to demonstrate that a coalition of nonconformists created an alternative church structure in the South and West of Scotland that undermined the legitimacy of the established Church and sustained presbyterian beliefs and practices. Although the radicals have traditionally received out-sized attention, moderate nonconformists, who rejected militancy and utilized government concessions to their benefit, played a significant role in enabling the re-emergence of a presbyterian Church.
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